Normalizing torture

CounterPunch
by Bruce Jackson

10/30/06

The heart of Dershowitz's argument is that torture is good if it is done by the right people for the right reasons. But if you don't know what someone knows until you torture him, how can you know that torture will extract the information you assume exists? And if you are wrong, what then? What if the old woman or the little kid you tortured really knew nothing? What if the person you're torturing has only incorrect knowledge? What is the effect of torture on you? What are the consequences of coming to enjoy doing it, as so many torturers seem to do? Where does it stop? What are the tradeoffs? Dershowitz addresses none of these questions. He is doing something law school professors do all the time: set up an absurd 'what if' to get students to consider the implications of a law. But he isn't doing it to get students to consider the implications of a law; he is doing it to normalize the extreme in a real world situation. Once you normalize the extreme, then all else follows. If you can stick needles under the nails of the guy you think knows where the ticking bomb is, then you can stick needles under anybody's nails if you're thinking the right thoughts when you do it...

//www.counterpunch.org/jackson10302006.html



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